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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 15, 2009 11:00pm-12:30am EDT

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minutes. >> thank you for inviting me here tonight, and i am astounded how many people have shown up for this event. it all has to do with george thomas, i am sure, and his comments yet on hold the appreciated virtues, and i will talk a great deal about them tonight. ..
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is certain in this he was always reluctant to do it, and so am i. if but i trust, if i channeled his marshall courage and falso trammel george corrade haifa the i will do okay tonight, so trammel i will. i was thinking on my way over here tonight, that it is some 43 years ago when i was just out of high-school that i helped organize the first i believe it was the first community teach
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men against the war in vietnam. [applause] it was held about a mile from here in chelsea ps11 on july 30, 1965. i recently came upon the hand littered flier that i did put out of that event and a framed it. why do i think of that now? because it was a way of speaking truth to power. and there was another kind of power that scholars and writers sometimes find themselves up against. it is the power of then established version of the truth. as the story of the civil war is generally told today, we have an entrenched narrative that, in my view, as signs undue credit for
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the union victory to sherman and grant. the adherence of this narrative tends to dominate the discourse and debate about the war, both in and out of our schools and rightly or wrongly time and history will be the judge, have shaped the thinking of students and readers for some time. there are many gentlemen and ladies among them but some of them don't take kindly to dissent, as i have discovered. in that way when war is like another, especially when it comes to holding those responsible for costly errors to account. so, this is another chance to speak truth to power and to engage in another kind of tien jen regardless of their resistance i may meet. so let a full free, honest and
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open debate began. we are here today to celebrate a remarkable man, general george h. thomas, perhaps the greatest patriot soldier since george washington america has ever produced. when he died in the spring of 1870, 10,000 people attended his funeral and flags across the nation were hong at half mast. the president of the united states, ulysses s. grant, general william tecumseh sherman, joseph, philip sheridan, george gordon meade and other notables of frank were among the vast concourse of mourners who gathered to pay their respects. his passing was considered in national calamity. today, textbooks often omit him or at best give him a few lines.
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yet no man was more responsible than thomas for the union victory in the war. how may be summarized his life? born into a slaveholding family in virginia not far from the side of the climactic battle of the revolutionary war, at yorktown, he chafed early on that the system of slavery that sustains his family's wealth. as a boy, he thought they-- taught the families slaves how to read and write, it is set against his family's wishes and if not quite in abolitionist as a young man, he was one in the making by repealed by his conduct in subsequent years. at the age of 19 he went off to west point, did well, the ground with william tecumseh sherman helmke protected from upper-class police. seemed never to forget anything
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he learned, fought with conspicuous distinction in the seminal and mexican wars, returned to west point to teach artillery and calvary tactics were just stuart and philip sheridan were among his pupils. there he developed a close with the academy's new superintendent, robert e. lee. lee wrote that there was "no more capable officer" in the service of the united states. in the olver lee's protests thomas was subsequently transferred to outpost duty at fort yuma where, despite the blistering heat, he made the most of his time. while others as one writer put it gambled, drank or messed with the cash box, thomas enriched his desert world patrols in the humdrum duty of the garrison life, he explored the reaches of
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the colorado river, gathered plant and mineral specimens which he sent to the smithsonian institute in washington, discovered a singular variety of that and with the help of indian interpreters, learned to speak and write the language of the local you must tried. for the next four years or so, serve with robert e. lee and texas were together they made the rounds of the court-martial circuit and tried to keep peace on the indian frontier. during one expedition, thomas fangled with some comanche's and took in a row in the chest to the chen. while on convalescent leave going north to meet his wife in new york, he learned that abraham lincoln's momentous election as president of the united states. when the civil war began thomas
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was a cavalry major and a bronzed and grizzled veteran of 44. in his person he was a large man of commanding presence with a strong, well proportioned body, the formidable head, full beard and a firm what. everything about him seemed to emanate tremendous physical strength, integrity and moral power. as one who knew him put it, he seemed carved out of live oak. since 1855 he had belonged to an elite corps of officers named by jefferson davis did the second cavalry unit that included albert city, johnston, earl vinn dorn, john bell hood and robert e. lee himself. khlek, a fellow virginian as well as johnston and the rest cast their lot with this out.
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they regarded their respective states as their country. thomas, which they broader constitutional understanding of his loyalties, went north. it in so doing he placed his country above his state but also incurred the displeasure of his family and the wrath of the entire itself. in union service, thomas had no political patrons, unlike grant and sherman and there was a general prejudice against him because he was southern born. but he rose by merit in by the end of the conflict he had incomparably the finest record of any general on either side. indeed in a ward distinguished by mind-boggling carnage, he was notably free of the promiscuous or chronic flanders that often stained the major clashes of the war. he poured his men into battle
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only when it counted and when it counted he prevailed. old this would be little more than academic praised it is battles had been minor or his role peripheral as the war played out. but the opposite was true. he gave the union its first major victory at mills springs kentucky which helped save kentucky for the union and opened the way to tennessee. he rendered service at the siege of corrinne where he practically superceded grants. he held the center at stones river were on a wooded knoll known afterwards as hell's half acre, he snatched victory from defeat. he took charge of the most important part of the maneuvering from duchschere to jetblue gelb tyrannic tahoma campaign with its great victory at hoover's gapped. once more save the date that chickamauga were on the crest of horseshoe ridge with 3/5 of the
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union army streaming to the reader along with its commander, thomas planted himself in a decimated array of broken regiments, brigades and the visions and held his ground long enough to permit the army to make an orderly retreat. in subsequent actions his men of routed the confederates at missionary ridge in the battle of chattanooga, which won that engagement for grant, appearing john bell hood's all-out attack at peachtree creek in the atlanta campaign and the stride hood's army at nashville to end the war in the west. then, despite grant's interference he built a cavalry force that neutralized the industrial clubs of selma and montgomery. alabama and helped to capture jefferson davis in georgia with his network of spies. in the end it could be said of
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him uniquely that whereas sherman never won a battle where he commanded and grants only bettered his way to victory for the most part any way with omar-- overwhelming force, thomas is the only union general to destroy to confederate armies and the only one besides to save to union armies from annihilation by his personal valor and skill. williams witton in his classic book, the 12 decisive battles of the war published in 1867 dwell memories were still fresh, wrote, the figure of thomas looms up in many respects without a superior and in most instances without a rival even among union generals created by the war. after the war, thomas served with honor as the military governor of several southern
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states and was perhaps the first to sound the alarm about the ku klux klan. although the klan clan to be a patriae organization and to recognize the constitution and its laws, thomas saw through its mask. and memorable words he described it as "a species of hands, whereby the crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit favor nisha of patriotism, so that the precipitated of the rebellion might go down in history hand-to-hand with the defenders of the government." the us, wiping out with their own hands their own stains." rightly convince the klan would soon evolve into an armed organization designed to control southern elections to a violence and intimidation, thomas repeatedly warned washington of the peril of its rise. honors came his way.
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he received the thanks of congress in 1865 in a formal resolution in the following year, he reluctantly agreed to appear before the house of representatives. escorted to the speaker's stand thomas was greeted by a tremendous ovation. it was almost too much for him, overcome by modesty and embarrassment. his hand ever steady in battle trembled and he blushed. in 1867 an attempt was made to draft thomas' candidate for president. he discourage such efforts and told one admirer, i am a soldier and i know my duty. as a politician i would be lost. no sir, i want to die with a fair record in this i will do if i keep out of the sea of politics. even so, some thought he would have swept the country had he
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run. in 1868, thomas still in service, was transferred to the military command of the pacific with its headquarters in san francisco and there died of a stroke while writing a letter to a newspaper in response to some slanders that had recently been published against his career. that the rear was bound up in the unhappy ways with dee reairs of grant and sherman and it was not a pleasant task for me to sort it out. grant had emerged from the war as the figurehead of victory. in my view he had not won it or the battles that really determines its outcome but he presided over it. though the list of battles he is always said to have one is extensive, of fort henry, for donaldson, shiloh, vicksburg and
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chattanooga capped by lease surrender at appomattox, the fact is that the possible and best exception of fix burd he won arguably none of these himself. before grant could get his men into position, of fort donelson fell after general cf smith made his heroic charge and shiloh grant's army was shaved by don carlos buhle. the incomplete victory said yuca and currin blunt more to general william s. rosecrans, his morris contemporaries actually seem to know and technica was won by thomas pit was pretty much obliged to manage the battle in his own way directly and indirectly to keep grant from throwing it away and i am not only talking about the charge of missionary ridge, but by a the
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refusal that thomas made to grant's early wardman before sherman arrived to prematurely at tak beckrich which he knew would lead to use less water. i am referring also to thomas's advance on orchard not which granted ordered once the knob was taken, this was elevation between chattanooga and missionary ridge, grant wanted those men pulled back and thomas objected to that. fortunately, rollins, grant's chief's that intervene and insisted that the men advanced too far to be withdrawn. it would have been a tell boat-- terrible development in the progress to be drawn back. then of course the charge up the ridge which was inspired by thomas even though he didn't directly order it. but, in looking at all of these battles in every instance grant received the credit because he
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was the general in charge and that of course is usually the way it works. then there followed the unspeakable carnage in the east, in the wilderness at sponsel vaidya and cold harbor and before peters burd as grant and lee wore each other out. as for sherman, hit the clinton campaign was largely carried by thomas the did the heavy lifting on it for sure. thomas said devised the strategy to win it at the outset, which sherman failed to heed. in brief, thomas had discovered a way to outflank joseph johnston's army by moving in force through an undefended pass known as snake creek gap. instead sherman and jills in coolidge frontal assaults against the nearly impregnable precipice known as rocky face cliff where the rebels were intrenched. he later claimed his attacks
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were mere faints. when he moved to the gap it was too late for him to do so effectively and he did so in any case within an adequate force. johnson escaped, sherman blamed his subordinate commander and so the atlantic campaign went on for months until atlanta fell. but the campaign's main object, johnston's army, lived to fight another day. in the second big campaign sherman marched through georgia to the sea. in so doing he marched away from the army, now under john bell hood, he was supposed to destroy, thomas was left to protect all of the union army's western gains. he was also left within an adequate force with which to do this. sherman had taken almost the whole of thomas's army and left him with the comparatively small
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force of veterans together with convalescence, scattered rejects and raw recruits. but, in one of the great battles of history certainly the most decisive of the war, thomas at nashville, tennessee annihilative the confederate army of the west between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on december 16, 1864. hood's army was utterly destroyed, but thomas was not done yet. the calvary he carefully assembled in spite of grant now had its crowning cast dismounted it fought with tenacity and brilliance, mounted i.t. said after the fragments of hood's army in relentless pursuit. the rock of chickamauga had become a sledgehammer of nashville. the victory at nashville marked the beginning of the end. it prevented a new southern
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thrust into the north which would have prolonged the war, made good sherman's march to the ec as lincoln noted in his telegram to sherman at savannah. and left with one considerable confederate army in the field beleagured in and around richmond and now dimmed. head thomas not insisted on taking the time and again it was not a long time, to remount his cavalry and properly prepare it for its great world, the western theater would not have been one when it was and without the great cavalry campaign that soon followed also organized by thomas in collaboration with general james h. wilson, the south would not have lost its capacity to make war. hood's army would have survived, lee would have been heartened and johnston now in north carolina, would have fought on.
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grant and sherman, whatever they may have said to accomplish on their own, gathered up in the end the harvest that thomas had some. yet, grant had tried to undermine thomas before the battle of nashville was fought. he hectored thomas from afar from several thousand miles away at city point, virginia and tried to get him to attack hood's confederate army before it made sense for him to do so, before his cavalry was fully mounted or his men fully organized or in their lines. his telegrams to thomas in the war department on the score performed one of the greatest scandals actually in the annals of war and when it came time for him to write his memoirs, a grant suppressed many of them to show himself in a better light. he included only the telegrams he had sent to thomas and
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halleck and stanton, not the ones thomas had sent in reply. the truth is, grant, knowing that he had blundered in allowing sherman to march away from hood's army panic and lost his head but thomas would not be forced. as in generals, grant and thomas were opposites. grant was a pushy and tenacious man, but one they knew them both, so much so that on several occasions he sacrificed men to experiment but still he went on. on the other hand, thomas was cool, quiet, careful in his movements, a nice calculator of chances but always intending to win all that could be one. in his judgment before nashville, every day increased the danger to hood while it improved the condition of the union army.
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white take desperate chances while a reasonable delay would render the outcome sure? nothing was lost and much was gained. within a few days in fact, after consistently heroic efforts to make a buyable army out of the patchwork of troops-- thank you. i think it is coming through anyway. i will wait for a moment. >> welcome to new york. [laughter] dairy unlike the idyllic spot i have in vermont, where the quiet is golden. i guess i should try and talk
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over it i am afraid. within a few days in fact after consistently heroic efforts to make a viable army out of the patchwork of troops, sherman had left behind for him to work with, thomas was ready but then an ice storm fell. the grand became one vast sheet of ice, the movement along level ground was hazardous and impossible up the slopes. grant, however renewed his hectoring and demanded that grant attack no matter what the weather was. it seems not to have occurred to grant what an ice storm meant. it was hardly possible for hood to move in any case if thomas could not. grant also began to demand that thomas be replaced. lincoln was modified and the war department pushback at that. but, grant kept the pressure up.
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one contemporary summed up the situation nicely. a weaker man then thomas would have yielded an attack before he was ready. true if he had obeyed the best interest of the country were in danger, but if he did not he was liable to the charge of disobedience of orders. the firmness of general thomas, therefore assumes the proportions of a martyr's faith. he would die for the cause, for the honor of the profession of arms and for his own spotless character rather than obey orders that would in peril because and doom his men. general james h. wilson, grant's own favorite calvary commander, later observed "grant's wires show that he had a good memory for injuries, real or fancied. they also show a willingness if
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not a purpose on his part." to bring thomas down, provided the authorities in washington could be induced to go along. what motives did grant have for all of this? all knowing contemporaries seem to agree that grant head conceded an implacable resentment of thomas a couple of years before after thomas had been placed in charge of much of grant's army in the aftermath of the battle of shiloh, the battle in which grants army due to his own careless arrangements and the careless arrangements of sherman was almost destroyed. that change in command did not last long, but from then on thomas-- grant rather, sought thomas as a rival to be contained. sherman soon joined in grants machinations, born of raw
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ambition in his alliance with grant. after all, after the shiloh fiasco, grant and sherman bush joined at the hip. as sherman put it in a famous assessment of their friendship, he stood by me when i was crazy and i stood by him when he was drunk. as grant grows and rank he brought sherman along. in a political sense, this was not difficult for him to do. grant had strong political backing from the powerful figures in illinois. in particular eliza washburn, the congressman from his district. washburne had supported lincoln's drive for the senate in 1854. he chaired the appropriations committee in the house, was nearly elected speaker, served as chairman of the republican congressional campaign committee in 1860, had lobbied hard for lincoln's nomination and was the man who met president-elect
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lincoln when he arrived secretly by night under military guard, by train in washington on february 23rd, 1861. throughout his career he was empowered this-- a power to be reckoned with and lincoln was much in his debt. as grants constance bonser, washburne supported him through thick and thin in order to be pushed to the bill that allowed grant to be named the tenant general of all the union armies. later, when grant was elected president washburn served briefly as the secretary of war before the coming minister to france. as for sherman, his brother john was a powerful senator and former candidate for speaker of the house. his father of in law was a former senator who had served as the nation's first secretary of the interior under franklin
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pierce. another brother, charles, was a federal judge because he was so well connected that despite his relative lack of military experience at least compared to many others when the war began, his brother john told him that his friends in high places were prepared to make him virtually secretary of war. grant's alliance with sherman and sherman's alliance with grant represented a powerful political conjunction that assisted both men in their rights. and here let me say a few words about lincoln and about lincoln's relation to grant, thomas and the politics of the war. lincoln's deep humanity nah wisdom, and determine leadership during our nation's most trying times ensure his graveness against all detractors. when his virtues as the
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statesman are assessed. essay wore vader however, he remains a figure of fun certain stature and the subject of sharp debate. as with any nationally rick aired and beloved icon, there are always attempts to gloss over his imperfections. yet the best way to honor the history is to tell the whole truth about it. even if we have to acknowledge inconvenient truths. to fully appreciate lincoln's importance we ought to be candid about his mistakes. lincoln was a man of great capacity and showed it in almost every area to which he turned his mind. but he had no personal military experience beyond a few weeks of campaigning in 1832 in the blackhawk war. he had opposed the mexican war as a war of aggression and when
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someone once asked him if he remembered anything about the war of 1812, which took place when he was a child he said, i had been fishing one day and caught a little fish which i was taking home. i met a soldier in the road and having always been told at home that we must be good to soldiers, i gave him my fish. so, he had no real knowledge of war when the civil war began and in that amusing little anecdote i think he was in his own way confessing as much. some of his blunders were completely understandable. in picking generals he was sometimes flying blind, unlike jefferson davis in accomplished soldier and former secretary of war, he had no personal knowledge of the officer corps. once the war began he kept changing his commanders.
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with disarming candor he once said taking a general was "like putting one's hand and a sack to get one eel from a dozen snakes let's cut as a leader he also lets political considerations skew his judgment. although opposed to states' rights doctrine in its dogmatic form he was moved too much at times by state pride. after fort donelson fell, for example, he said that's he signed papers promoting grant, "if southerners think man for man they are better than our illinois men or western men generally they will discover themselves in a grievous mistake." grant, in fact was favored over others who had shown more still. early in the war thomas was not promoted as promptly as normal protocol would have required it.
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no one can quite say why but after thomas won the first grade union victory of the war at mill springs, kentucky, lincoln for political reasons may have not wanted a seven born general to get credit for reviving the honor of northern arms. nine months later when thomas awe to have been given command of an army in the west lincoln exclaimed, let the virginian wait. yet, the greatness of thomas kept thrusting itself to the floor at stones river tennessee, which lincoln later said, save the union and prevented the intervention of france and england and than that chickamauga georgia when thomas made the greatest band against an enemy since the ancient greek stand at thermopylae. after chickamauga, lincoln began to understand how great thomas was. in ah-hah he said it was
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doubtful that the heroism and skill, thomas had shown that they had "ever been surpassed in the world less "in the meantime when it had come time in 1864 to pick a new general to head the army of the potomac thomas had been considered. general james a. garfield, later president of the united states was one of his advocates but then again partly for political reasons, namely out of gratitude to grant for not offering himself as a presidential candidate in the upcoming election lincoln decided to make grant the tenet general. that placed him in charge of all of the union armies. the congressional act is noted that cleared the way for that was of course introduced by elia washburne frago that gave grant effective direction of the army of the potomic then led by george gordon meade.
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given the reckless carnage that followed grants appointment may reasonably considered a mistake. lincoln's friend and counselor, alexander k. mccluer who admired grant, wrote afterwards, "no general was better equipped for the supreme command of all our armies then thomas, who would have taken a richmond with grant's army and saved tens of thousands of lives of gallant men from the untimely death." to lincoln's credit, he later tried to dissuade grant as we saw before the battle of nashville from insisting on its order to remove thomas from command but it was major thomas eckard of the telegraph department, who held on to that order on its own responsibility, just long enough to let thomas make his move.
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lincoln, however reluctantly, had been prepared to let that order go through. afterwards, lincoln and stanton were both grateful to heckert for this insubordinate act. in fact in a touching scene as eckard and stanton wrote to the white house together to tell lincoln of the successful result of the national fight eckard told stanton what he had done. he said he expected he might be court marshalled for it. stanton put his arm around him and said if the court-martial you, they will have to court-martial me. so, let us celebrate lincoln but in doing so let's say his appreciation of thomas was a laudable thing but let us all so i acknowledge that his belated appreciation of thomas was a significant factor in the conduct of the war.
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why is thomas not a household name? in the aftermath of the war, thomas was considered by many its most outstanding soldier. indeed, a remarkable number of his contemporaries thought george washington was the only man of stature to whom he could be readily compared. generals james h. wilson, james a. garfield, william s. rosecrans, cedric harry ward, edwin stanton and assistant secretary of war charles a. dana ol boys that opinion. others concurred. general oliver o. carl thought thomas not only greater than stonewall jackson and robert e. lee but washington's equal. with less opportunity he wrote his achievements put him by washington side. bike that he meant that thomas
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had accomplished all he had without advantage of being in supreme command. joseph in the last letter he ever wrote called thomas the most gifted soldier america had ever known. general james stedman called him the noblest figure of the war. general car fields opinion, the military genius of thomas equal that displayed by washington zachary taylor and the duke of wellington which was quite a triumphant. none of these were of the kind. they were heartwrenching and hartsfeld. win gideon wells, lincoln secretary of the navy, the family met thomas after the war he fought him intellectually and as a civilian as well as a military man as he put it, equal
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exceeded by none. major don fiat, judge advocate in the celebrated treason trial of general don carlos buell wrote, grant felt uneasy and ashamed in the presence of thomas and both grant and sherman were troubled by the thought that truth and justice would award to their subordinative in office, the higher position on the honor roll. some people have questioned the character of piatt because he became an investigative journalist after the war and it investigated grant's administration. grants son, frederick when it unfettered broke into his home with clubs when he was not there and terrifies-- terrorist his
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family so needless to say piatt did have the grudge against grant but the corrette was not an inappropriate one given the circumstances i would say so i think that don piatt's opinion is not to be discounted and he was a good investigative journalist too by the way. the scramble for post-war fame and fortune had other things in store. grant and sherman whig both out live thomas by many years and successfully promote their own reputations, often at his expense. both would also glorify each other, right popular memoirs pettitte revise the tax and work to ensure that thomas would be placed third or last in the end knowledge tram friend of union commands to determine the outcome of the war. domain mrap against thomas
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fostered by grant and sherman behind his back was that he was slow. goodmon defense maybe, but slow to attack. this was a canard. as the calvary instructor he was affectionately dubbed old slow trot, not because he was slow as later slander would have it, started by grant, but because of the wise direction he would give his cadets as they readied for a charge for good during exercises on the academy plane after the command trot had been given and the cadets began to anticipate a gallop, thomas would check their ardour with the order salote drought. some recent books on grant sherman and various aspects of the war and even some standard histories show and none have the inclination to repeat information long disproved.
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that is a sad thing. the only ascertainable time thomas was ever slow was in withdrawing under fire. not only did he win every battle he ever fought, proving that his celebrative preparations were sound, not slow, but he rose to meet every occasion however on forseen. that shows you how quick he was. only a razor like judgement combined with an incredibly sure and prompt capacity for action could have rescued the union army from calamity at stones river, chickamauga and peachtree creek. there is absolutely nothing in the careers of the there grant or sherman that remotely compares to it, so then what remains? nashville. there we see he was not slow, but wise. to the impetuous grant and the
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hyperactive sherman who did almost everything aetna roddick speed the methodical, thoughtful thomas seemed to circumspect. the fact that he was also somewhat slow-moving and careful in his physical movements provided them both with the metaphor. that physical carriage however was due to the pain he suffered from a ranched spine that had nothing substantive to do with any thing laggard in his conduct in the war. one contemporary wrote that grant couples thomas's name was some innuendo as well sherman to their own peculiar shame. win grant composed his memoirs, he slighted the achievements of thomas and some others is mentioned and took credit for some achievements that were not his own. but toward the end of the riding he tried to work in a tribute to
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thomas that he knew history would applaud. in summing up he portrayed him as a sensible, honest and brave commander who gained the confidence of all who served under him and as the great defensive general of the war. most civil war historians have accepted this appraisal on its face. those more familiar with the record have known it to be half truth in its praise. the late, great captain said of thomas, what a general could do, thomas did. no more dependable soldier for a moment of crisis existed on the north american continent or ever did exist. as for thomas being a defense of general, a description calculated to excuse grants harassment of him at chattanooga and nashville, canton wrote,
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thomas comes down in history as the rock of chickamauga what, the great defensive fighter, the banta could never be driven away, yet it may also be worth making note that just twice in all the war was a major confederate army driven away from a prepared position in complete route at check nivat and nashville each time the blow that crowded it was launched by thomas. there was nothing slow about thomas. grand was wrong. toward the end of his life captain confessed to being haunted by the feeling that thomas was after all the greatest commander of them all and that civil war history would one day have to be upgraded as he put it, to give him his rightful place. i could wish that katzen had taken that task on.
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let me add one more thing about thomas being slow. grant and sherman may of course had convince themselves of it, justify their behind-the-scenes effort to limit his reputation and rank. but even that may be doubt it. in in 1902 a bundle of autographed records, some of them by sherman, all private and unpublished turned up and a secondhand bookshop in new york. and one dated november 9, 1875 sherman admitted to having described thomas as slow but half excused himself by claiming that "general grant knows well that it was he and not me the first use that expression west "however he said he had been willing to take the heat for it, for grants sake. i called that special pleading. shermans conscience had clearly
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begun to gnaw at him a bit. i know full well that my book is controversial and it goes against, it goes against the grain or maybe i should say it is engaged in an uphill fight but those in defense of the grant/sherman legend and to some degree i think it is a legend, have entrance themselves on their own missionary ridge but in the long view of history i think they are not likely to hold their ground. my judgment on grant and sherman may seem severe but i did not write my book out of some of then deggans them. i rode it to write a grievous wrong. it is the known vendetta that grant head agents thomas that really matters anyway and in that regard, let me add that thomas after the war continued
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to suffer humiliations' at grant shands. nor did i set out to run grant and sherman down to run thomas up but as thomas grow in stature they are bound to shrink. after all my book is partly about stolen honors and we can hardly expect those who claimed them to maintain their former place. in the scale of things, grant and sherman are bound to diminish, at least in relation to thomas as he gets the credit he deserves. god forbid that i should ever knocked down icons for its own sake. anyone who has ever read my examination of the founding fathers and the fight for american independence in my book come angel in the whirlwind, a book i think it's fair to say now considered, widely considered standard, and those that but i will not deny that my
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sense of outrage at his treatment impassions my pages with what felt at times like righteous wrath. the first draft of history is always written by those in power. the military coterie of grant, sherman, phillips sheridan and john scofield all closely allied, constituted a dynasty of command that lasted for more than 20 years. during this period of the unprecedented military control as one writer put it, sherman succeeded grant as commander of the army in 1969 and sherman as commander in 1884 and scofield succeeded sheridan in 1888. the trend of civil war history largely shaped by their memoirs but also by the official control of their post-war prominence
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gave over the public understanding events long enjoyed the standard of tradition as fixed in the popular mind. this has been unfortunate for the national memory and the true story of the war. the official records of the war of the rebellion as they are called, were substantially compiled, collated and published between 1880 in 1900, with supplementary volumes appearing in later years. sherman's memoirs for first published in 1875, grants a decade later in 1885. the voracity of both were challenged from the start and often contradicted by the record that emerged. even so, as early as 89 e3 in a speech before the society of the army of the cumberland, the army
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that thomas led, general joseph fullerton, a former chief of staff to general d.s. stanley, lamented the serious errors that had become part of the popular account of the war, he noted that the truth have often been suppressed and that many had not spoken up because they knew that they would have been "stunned to political and social death last "as a result "in the names of some of our greatest soldiers are lusterless and almost unknown through the generation that has come on sense, because credit for the deeds of those great but modest men was unjustly assumed by or awarded to some hero of the hour. then they drove the point home. you, men of the army of the cumberland, know of such a soldier.
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you have seen him, you remember him well. now is the time well your memories are yet fresh, your mind active, your spirits strong, to see that his star be properly set in the galaxy of the great generals of the world. if that has not happened yet, questions about the competence of grant and sherman have long bling beard as a subtext of civil war studies and force themselves to the forefront whenever the documentary record is examined with care. their shortcomings as generals were well-known and well described by a number of military scholars and historians, including john fisk, and john rove's and theodore a. dodge, a civil war veteran who lost a leg at gettysburg and went on to write a 12 volume
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history on the art of war. thale considered grant and sherman true patriots but they also noted as common knowledge grants ignorance of or disregard of the basic principles of good strategy and tactics as well as germans conspicuous failure to successfully execute his assigned tasks at vicksburg, check nivat and on the atlanta campaign. his potentially catastrophic folly in marching away from hood's army leaving thomas with an inadequate force to meet its threat was also with knowledge as the simple fact. dodge wrote that grant "showed during his military career on more than one occasion a singular lack of aptitude in using what are recognized as the best methods of what modern warfare. its view brian success is 41 agents generals of second rate capacity and when he met
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opponents of the acknowledged during he accomplished the results he aimed at only with the eight of preponderating forces. he also noted that grant, however tenacious, hardly ever seemed to learn from his mistakes. he had a propensity to divide his forces, never won a battle when the fighting was really desperate end at code harbor and elsewhere launch uniform attacks against fortified lines. that went against the fundamental role in attacking entrenched positions, were the only advantage and the attacker has is to keep the defenders guessing at where the attack with masked forces will occur. uniform attacks are usually suicide. head grant surprised convention and achieved great things by his disregard for military doctrine
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we would marvel at him for it but the opposite is true. gideon welzel noted in his diary that grant-- gideon wells being lincoln cost great secretary of the navy noted that grant was reckless with his men. de'jon rove's observe that he threw away mn 10,000 at a time. winston churchill when he came to write his history of the english-speaking peoples decried as he put it, unflinching butchery of the cold harbor assaults. and again, speaking of grant plan for simultaneous advances in the east and west rove's wrote if the two armies of lee and johnson could be destroyed there would be in into the war. it is therefore rather remarkable that neither he nor sherman succeeded in the campaign which they began in
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may, 1864 in accomplishing these objects. at the close of that year the main army in front of st. petersburg and richmond, sherman also reached occupied demolished and left atlanta with that destroying the army of johnston and hood. that task he finally abandoned to thomas who executed it in a memorable and decisive victory of nashville. with respect to the atlanta campaign, robes candidly added, sherman laws that the very outset the best and only chance the head during the whole summer of inflicting a decisive defeat upon his antagonist. had he followed thomas' guys, hattie marched immediately with the great army through snake creek gap and seized the railroad in johnston's grier at krissoff got instead of sending through the gap with a comparatively small force he might have been that the campaign with a sudden and brilliant victory but he missed
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his opportunity and is wary and skillful opponent presented him with no other. sherman and his adversaries' positions and forced him to fall back without ever being able to bring him today in a situation where the superior numbers of the union army would still. sometimes it is endeavoring to find the weak places in the enemies position. sherman lost more men then he need have lost and must be said is assaults on kennesaw mountain, which by the way thomas stopped by his order, did not do credit to his tactical judgment. and his desire to bring matters to a crisis he failed to recognize that his losses with only, not only be severe but fruitless. strange to say many commonplace truths, especially those
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reflecting poorly on grant and sherman have largely disappeared from the accounts of the war. when not absolutely absent they are often dampens down. in a number of recent books, grant and sherman have been generally florists with thomas almost and eclipse. the battle of chickamauga is often celebrated as is one great achievement but of course it belonged to a continuum that made up his unrivaled record in the war. and the revised standard version, grant gets glory for shiloh, attention-- the tension between grant and thomas is obscured, thomas is called bonders, a grant is made out to be in full control of the battle of technica, sherman still assaults at the outset of the campaign, atlanta campaign are omitted often.
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misstate creek-- creek yaf is credited to sherman and the failure of the belated and in aquatic it moved is blamed on his aborted commander, justice sherman hoped it would be. in the windup to nashville, we are told that sherman one history left thomas with more than enough men to cope with anything rebels might try and that sherman took "his own army of 62,000 hardened campaigners" on his georgia campaign. ..
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why should these other truths about the contribution made by thomas diomede it? and does that not distort the story of the war? shelby foote remarked not long ago there was a movement underway to homogenize the history of the war ma to deal with the good and evil of it, or of the people who fought, but to make it all good. he was concerned about this, as i recall, in the way that civil
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war battlefield parks were being presented which made of the war a romantic object of our past. the right way to honor the past is to tell the whole truth about it, to give credit where it is due. otherwise the ordeal of the nation sentimentalized. that can happen whenever or wherever the past is glorified simply because we are past it and so belongs to the penumbra aura of the heritage we claim. thomas predicted the time in history what do him justice. his redoubtable colleague general oliver o. howard agreed it takes time for jealousy and ambition spewing out cullom nei to nash, mall and consume themselves, but time is long and justice never dies. it is thomas, in my eighth view,
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not a grant or sherman, who deserve to stand beside lincoln in our memory as the noblest figures of the war. thank you very much. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, we have time for a few questions. >> absolutely. >> alan -- first week for the microphone, then it's all yours. okay? you don't have to touch it, allan. [laughter] >> did the sisters ever forgive him for his being a union man? and are there any family members still surviving today and have they forgiven him? >> owls to the second, there are collateral relatives alive.
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i don't know what their view of him is. his sisters, their story is riss written in disappearing ink in a sense. oliver o. howard tried to gather material for them from a sketch of thomas's life of around 1890 and he wrote to thomas's two surviving sisters to get them to say something about his childhood and growing up and all and thomas's sister judith wrote back general howard he was as old well brought up boys are and that is all she would say about him. >> nason? >> your remarks are interesting. i never realized just how
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effective a commander georgetown was rather than the reputation as being a great defensive general but isn't it a fact that the main theater of operations was against the union army against the army of the potomac against the army of northern virginia mainly defeating robert e. lee and the fact is thomas never had an engagement because of the situation. it was demoted in that situation against robert e. lee so we don't really know how well thomas would have done in grants place other than the fact thomas reduced -- was very careful about casualties. >> as bruce canton remarked, of richmond and washington, d.c. or the nerve centers of the war,
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and so the focus of the war was, the political focus was in many ways on the eastern feeder, but he concluded actually the really decisive fighting was in the west and the south and i quite agree. i think that thomas's victory at national pretty much isolated lead and set up the conditions the would need to his surrender. of course we can't know what thomas would have done with grand's army. evin that being said i think the series of achievement, victories and where thomas prevented armies from being destroyed in many ways for more determinative of the outcome of the war dan the portable still meet that grant and sherman end word in
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the east. >> lu, wait for the microphone. you can stay there. we will come to you. >> in 1862, pallets ordered thomas to take command in kentucky in the campaign. he turned down that command and talked them into leaving buhle in charge and he was going to be finished man anyway. why didn't he take command of the army and go after? >> it's one of the paradoxes of thomas that's a very straight, a character trait which enabled him to stand firm and do the right thing in battle also slowed down his own advancement as in man of honor what he felt that buhle had earned a second chance by having come to grant's rescue at shiloh, and when grant
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-- when thomas was offered the opportunity to take command from buhle, he felt that he didn't have a complete grasp of the battle plans and strategies that buhle had already worked out for his coming campaign. it was a gesture of self as month and modesty, which was typical of thomas, and clearly retarded his own promotion. but it was done in such a high minded way that it's very difficult for me to find it in myself to fault him all flights understand and can follow the reasoning of those who find fault with him for that. >> one more over there, paul. >> let me ask you a question about a story you mentioned at
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the beginning of your talk about how general thomas as a boy taught the sleeves and his family farm to read and write which is something of an echo stonewall jackson similarly founding a sunday school for blacks in lexington and in fact famously sending a check, his monthly check to support immediately after the battle of bull run when everybody was expecting news of what a hero jackson was. as you are an expert on long other things and religion and particularly the development of the excellent book about that, could you tell us about thomas's religion, how it played with his view toward slavery and was thomas an abolitionist? >> the story about him teaching
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his family's leaves to read and write has been discounted by some as a legend and i find it impossible to discount because it's firsthand evidence. it came from a slave, an elderly slate who evidently played with thomas as a boy, eight by the name of ortiz who exists in the records that oliver howard interviewed for this sketch of thomas's life that he was trying to prepare in 1890 so i just wanted to mention that because i know that some have wanted to portray thomas as a typical member of the slaton family with the views of a typical of such families in virginia. i don't think he was an abolitionist and exactly when the war started. he had a horror of a reward of
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labor so the idea of slavery was appalling to him but he felt somewhat the way lincoln did i think into a general who believed that emancipation was not only the politically correct thing to do of great military use but was something which ought to have been done long cents and in fact thomas was the only general, a union general to use blacks in a decisive battle and use them, gave them an honorable in the battle of national and i discovered while writing this book there are many members of the black community or civil war but to look upon him as their hero because after the war blacks would often went to the battle of national and
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say there wheeler our full rights of citizenship. there we proved that we can be complete soldiers of this nation. now, as for his religious beliefs, the evidence about them is scant but he is quoted occasionally has professing a profound christian conviction and he felt evidently that one could hardly going to battle in his view and be truly brave unless you somehow had confidence in your god. he said it was analogous to a soldier having confidence in his commander, now i think in a way there is something about the way in which thomas commanded that inspired all of his soldiers and
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officers around him always to stand firm. stevan was once common general stevens was once asked what kind of hold it thomas have over his men he could do this no matter how desperate the fighting was and steadman replied, quote quote no one would ever think of not being noble and courageous in thomas' presence. it was just made the a shame so by example, i think almost religious example he had that kind of power over his officers and troops. >> last one from our friends in the new jersey civil war roundtable. >> i agree with you about thomas' performance at national and it was really well but don't we overblow that year by masami is really destroyed at franklin and nashville is more or less just a finishing touch?
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>> hodes army was very badly damaged at franklin and had he gone straight to national he would have caught thomas before thomas could organize. i think that the army that thomas was assembling at national when hudna arrived before was just coming together as the army that could beat hood so it was up in the air who to put these disparate elements together, the patch work force that he made to make certain that he would prevail. remember he was attacking entrenched positions though and the rule of thumb in those days was that you needed three, four
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-- 3-1, 5-4 to overcome positions of that kind comes thomas didn't really have that numerical proportion in his favor. it was the strategy of his battle plan that insured the victory but a hood's army fought back hard and it was desperate fighting on the first day although thomas -- the battle went pretty much according to the plan thomas had worked all for it. but nothing was guaranteed until the battle of the second day was over. >> i would like to bring up steve, our vice president. [applause] let's just stay here. >> on behalf of the roundtable we would like to give benson bobrick this plaque to commemorate his talk tonight and thank you all for attending and watching out there on c-span land. so, good night. [applause]
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>> benson bobrick is the author of several books including angels in the war went the triumph of the american revolution. he received the literature award of the american academy of arts and letters in 2002. posted this event. for more information, visit cwrtnyc.org. this summer book tv is asking what are you reading. >> mary metalin, what are you reading? >> my political books are in the genre going back to the future and reading "liberty and tierney." i just got the first edition said, i am so proud of this, 12 volumes of edmund burke riding which is fascinating, not a good
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beach book is a good thing and the 5,000. for fun i am reading the 17 volumes of vinceflynn and this new author name lisa lutz, the spellman files, spellman family. she is a jongh funny writer so if i can get through that this summer i will feel good. >> i am looking forward to my summer vacation and summer reading. i am going to read adam gopnik. this is a long shot but i am reading this, about the story of lincoln, darwin and modern life, and that is my eighth lead in, and then on a carry my books about lincoln, my books about fdr, i.t., each trip and forget to read but will this summer. >> to read for summer reading lists and information visit our web site at booktv.org.
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here is a look at some of the upcoming book fairs and festivals of for the upcoming months.
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bookexpo america and new york city, the both for regnery publishing with marji ross, publishing president. what do you have coming this season? >> we are very excited about several books for the summer and fall. and of course it's a good time to be a conservative publisher in washington, d.c. because there's a lot to talk about. our first book i will tell you about is a book by repeat best-selling author for regnery, michelle malkin and this is a book called culture of corruption. it is probably the biggest antifor obama book and we think is going to be very big. michelle malkin dustin a real investigative reporter's job of
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looking at president obama, his team, and he has nominated, will he has brought in to work for him, who has come from the corrupt city of chicago and what they are up to, and i think the story here and like the promise of change and maybe some reform in washington government is up to the same old tricks and you are not going to like what you hear when you hear about what is happening in the hall of government. >> another book coming this fall, life after death, the evidence. can you tell about that? >> this is another great best-selling author. his last book with us was called what is so great about christianity, and this was a book that was a counter argument to all of the antigough books that have come out a couple of years ago, dawkins and hitchens had been talking about. their argument there was no rational basis for believing in god, and he said well, quite the
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opposite. there is a rational logical reason for believing in god. this book takes off where that bouck left off, life after death. talks about why it makes perfect sense, logical sense to believe and have been, the afterlife, miracles and things that are not particularly consistent with the atheist point of view and he takes a very logical and rational approach to proving why it makes more sense to believe in the afterlife than to dismiss it as a fairy tale. >> finally mark furman, corruption of justice. >> another regnery best selling author. mark freeman did his very first book with us about 12 years ago. of course that was the book that broke open the o.j. simpson murder case and he was the lead police detective. he has come back to regnery with an interesting book. he is of course best known as an
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analyst crime and he has solved a lot of the biggest crime we have seen. he is a fox news contributor. he talks a lot about crime and justice and detective work on tv. this book is partly a media buying this book. the media role both complicity and accomplice in solving crimes but also our were sort of obsession with crime as entertainment and his point is that we have probably gone too far treating crime as entertainment and reality tv and how that gets in the way of solving crimes of investigators and police detectives doing their job and what it means for us as a society so it should be a very interesting book and hopefully another good best seller for regnery. >> marji ross, publisher and president of regnery publisher. thank you very much. >> a pleasure. good to see you.
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oxford university press in 20 online has several new titles coming out. suzanne fervor senior editor with oxford what are some of the new titles you want to tell about? >> i would be thrilled to talk about some of our new books. we have a range of books and i will talk more about political ones or that have political implications. real enemies, there's a lot of talk about conspiracy theory. you see them all the time on the internet. this is an author to spend time looking at what does conspiracy theory mean for american democracy and how does the fact there have been conspiracy theories over the long period of time since world war i what does that mean about americans and what they think about their government and to the trust the government? it is a book that looks at pearl
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harbor and the fear of jews in government. it looks what happened after the kennedy assassination and huge literature that has come out and looks at 9/11. it's a wonderful read and it's something that unfortunately will never go away so this is an author to spend a lot of time and internet sites and used that for her research. >> what comes naturally. >> what comes naturally i am proud to say is running to awards at this conference. this author work on this and told me she thought that when she started it was a really important topical issue and she thought by the time she finished it it shouldn't be so unusual anymore. it shouldn't be something people still have an issue about. this is a book that travels from the civil war up to the present and looks at the different groups defined as non-white and the laws made against all sorts of unions and lot relationships and society and how people got basically taken to court and other people charged with their
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race was and then she ties this into a marriage to a swede is a very topical book in the sense that the propositions in california are not that much different than looking at the miscegenation wall was all about. >> and peggy won what award? >> she has won two awards. one, all the prize for political institutions and political history and she won the laurence libyan prize for a beloved historian who passed away a few years ago for the best book and cultural history. >> and who is peggy pasco? >> the professor of northwestern history and professor of ethnic studies. this is her second book. >> the dewaal street exploded. >> what could be more topical? this is not the economy today. this is a book sit in the twenties when there was a real explosion down on wall street. this is the first book
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all of those countries doing archival work and brings together an intellectual and political history and is a global history. this was the first book and also want to price is so extremely excited about the moment. >> where to the title come from? >> something the author believed represented the spirit of the age. the lincoln moment is an important moment in history but the wilsonian moment gave rise to a sense of hopefulness that there would be a future coming out the ashes of world war i. >> susan fervor with oxford university press with a couple of their new titles.
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this summer book tv is asking what are you reading. >> the books i would have pulled out if you asked what are the books you are reading now are two or three graphic novels. one is from home, do you know the book from home? fun home is bye alison bechdel famous and a couple of subcultures because she has had an online comic strip for years called dikes to watch out for and she is a funny, feisty, irreverent insurgent kind of
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artist and she spent many years working on a memoir and it is her true story of growing and coming out as a lesbian and her parents were english teachers, so it is a very literary. the lines which she refracts her work are literary lenses and as she is coming out as an adolescent she realizes that her father is a repressed homosexual and as she makes the discovery he kills himself so it is a powerful poignant and funny incredibly moving book alison bechdel is one of my favorite print writers, authors con artists. the other book that he may have heard of this called persepolis of the iranian revolution by maryjaneat

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